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IMAGINE the scenario in an autonomous national region within the Russian Federation.
A majority of elected deputies in the region’s parliament have decided to hold a referendum on independence from Moscow.
President Vladimir Putin, the Russian government and the courts declare that the referendum contravenes the Russian constitution.
But the regionalists (or “nationalists,” as some call themselves) go ahead and hold it anyway.
The majority of electors stay away from the ballot, as national police forces try to close polling stations by force, while the overwhelming majority of voters choose separation.
Subsequently, the separatist leadership announces independence but refuses to confirm its decision unequivocally to the Moscow authorities, who then impose direct rule, dissolve the regional parliament and order fresh elections in which the regionalists win a majority.
Despite this, regionalist leaders are accused of fomenting rebellion — although they have no record of inciting violence — and some flee the country as others are arrested to face trial and very long prison sentences.
The Russian government applies for international warrants to have the exiles detained and sent back to Russia for trial.
Throughout such developments, would most European and other Western governments have remained silent, or said nothing more than that the Russian constitution should be upheld?
Rather more likely, the air would have been thick with denunciations of Putin thuggery and heavy-handedness.
The arrests would have been seen as proof of Putin’s authoritarian rule, aided and abetted by the Moscow regime’s judicial puppets.
The international arrest warrants would have been contemptuously rejected with lectures about the West’s cherished democratic values and freedoms.
But these developments refer to Spain and Catalonia, not to some region in Russia — hence the absence of international outrage.
It is the right-wing Spanish government which sends in police mobs, dissolves elected assemblies, arrests and imprisons non-violent politicians and seeks to keep them in jail for years on end.
And it is Western governments and the EU which issue barely a squeak of criticism of the Madrid authorities.
Ironically, it is the Russian government which has spoken out loudest against repression and in favour of dialogue to resolve the conflict in Spain and Catalonia peacefully, constitutionally and democratically.
Meanwhile, Catalonia’s ex-president Carles Puigdemont was taken from his car by German police last weekend while trying to reach Denmark and Catalan politician Clara Ponsati was arrested just a few days ago in Edinburgh. Both now face extradition to Spain.
The Catalan separatists acted unwisely in calling last October’s referendum, with no clear mandate from the Catalan people to hold it in the way and at the time that they did. Puigdemont and his cohorts should be accountable for any gross misuse of public funds.
Politically, the Morning Star aligns itself with the majority of Catalonia’s communists and socialists, who prefer federalism and working-class unity to separation.
But we also recognise that separatist and nationalist leaders are unlikely to receive a fair trial and that, in any event, political show trials will not resolve the conflict in Catalonia. Spanish repression should cease — along with the Western silence which colludes with it.
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